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Frigate restored after years in mud

Jan 1, 2003

Perhaps the most ambitious reconstruction ever undertakenon a historic vessel was completed recently in Lisbon, Portugal: a 284-foot teak-hulled frigate that had been reduced to a mass of rotting timbers resting on a mud bank is afloat once more.

The colossal wooden frigate, D. Fernando II e Gloria, was originally built in 1843 for service on the India run. It was reduced to wreckage by fire in 1963. What was left of the vessel's teak hull was transported by barge to Aveiro in 1992 and was restored during the last six years.

The vessel has a similar rig to the U.S.S. Constitution and now serves as a dockside attraction for the Naval Museum in Lisbon. It will be featured in Portugal's Expo '98.

D. Fernando II e Gloria was named in tribute both to the husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal, D. Fernando Saxe-Coburgo-Gotha, who was very popular, and also to Our Lady of Glory, who held devotional significance in Goa. It was the last frigate to serve under sail in the Portuguese navy and the last warship on the India run.

The frigate D. Fernando II e Gloria served for 20 years on the India run, sailing also to Mozambique and Angola. In 1865 she replaced the sailing ship Vasco da Gama as the School of Artillery. Thirteen years later in 1878 she made a training voyage for ensigns to the Azores.

Her last mission at sea was in 1888 but her role as the School of Artillery for the Navy continued for another 60 years. Then in 1938 she became the headquarters vessel of the Fragata D. Fernando Welfare Institution. Many boys were educated aboard the vessel, both in general education and in seamanship.

On April 3, 1963, there was a fire aboard the frigate, an accident with a generator under repair that left no power for electric pumps to douse the flames. The vessel's hulk remained on the mud until 1992.

The restoration was a joint effort between the Portuguese navy and the National Commission for the Commemorations of the Portuguese Discoverers.Ship restoration seems to be in the air in this country as well. The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park recently hosted the relaunching of its flagship, Balclutha, a 256-foot full-rigged ship with a riveted steel hull.

Built in 1886 on the Clyde River in Glasgow, Balclutha never had an engine but plied the oceans between Europe and San Francisco by sail. The ship was recently hauled out for an extensive hull refit that included new plates and rivet replacement. The vessel is prominently featured on the San Francisco waterfront and is open to visitors at the museum.


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